Historical evidence of the life of Jesus Christ is lacking at best, and the physical descriptions in the Bible are mostly metaphorical. So when constructing his image, believers have had very little information to work with. After ascending to heaven, in Revelations, it’s said that the “hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.” And according to Isaiah 53:2, he wasn’t physically attractive: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”
Given this lack of information, believers throughout history have had to rely on artists’ depictions of Christ. Through the year 1900, two-thirds of Christians lived in Europe, so most depictions of Christ have been overwhelmingly Eurocentric. In order to provide a better understanding of what Christ would have looked like, in 1998, Richard Neave, a retired forensic scientist, set to work on recreating his face. To do so, he began examining the skulls of Semites from around Galilee in Northern Israel from the beginning of the first century.
Neave examined the skulls with the help of computerized x-rays, and to get an idea of Christ’s hair length and texture, and he looked at drawings depicting men of the era. “I made a plaster cast of the skull, which gives me something to work on,” Neave told the BBC in 1998, “Then I put clay over it and, using soft tissue measurements, built up the anatomy of the face,” he said. “Inevitably there are some areas where you have to speculate, particularly if parts of the skull are missing.” The results look nothing like the robed man with pale skin, light eyes, and long, flowing hair that we’re used to seeing in American churches.
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